This conference is rightly focussed on the international situation. And in
Micheal Ancram, as our deputy leader and shadow foreign secretary we have the
right man in the right place at the right time.
Before I move on to the substance of my remarks, can I make some short
Conservative MEPs look forward to winning with Iain Duncan Smith at Britain's
next national poll, the Euro-election of Spring 2004. We got the ball
rolling when he visited us in Strasbourg last week.
We all recognise the need for fresh thinking. As I have said at conferences
before, we can learn from Europe where they do things better - in health, in
education, in transport.
Whatever your views on the EU, it is in Britain's interests that we take
Since doubling our numbers in the 1999 Euro-election your 35 MEPs have been
playing their part, delivering for Britain.
And we are publishing today our annual report with that title: Delivering for
Let me take one example. I have just heard that my deputy, Robert Sturdy, has
collected enough signatures from MEPs to force the setting up of an EU public
committee of inquiry into the dreadful handling of Foot and Mouth Disease,
something deliberately avoided by Labour in this country.
Last week MEPs were debating and approving the EU's emergency measures
Our Chief Whip, former Home Office minister Timothy Kirkhope, successfully
moved an amendment for a fast-track procedure to seize financial assets and
cast the net wider to include other terrorist organisations - such as the
Conservatives were also leadng the detailed negotiations between MEPs and EU
ministers on emergency Money Laundering legislation. We said that while banks
should provide information on terrorist funds, this should not give carte
blanche to the EU to pry into every detail of our lives.
We also insisted that anti-terrorism measures should not be used to disguise
moves to extend the EU's powers into other areas.
We have a particular interest in terrorism. Apart from US institutions in
Europe, the only buildings so far apparently identified by bin Laden's group
as targets are NATO and the European Parliament, where hundreds of Britons
quietly continue their work knowing that they are at risk. That is democracy
For this is a struggle between terrorism and democracy. As Conservatives, we
have been at the vanguard of the struggle for democracy.
It was Conservative MEPs who set up the EU's democracy programme as the
Berlin Wall fell. It has backed democracy and human rights in the 12 former
communist countries applying to join the EU. But it has also been funding
pro-democracy activity in the predominantly non-democratic Islamic countries.
Conservative MEPs have tried to play a direct role supporting democracy all
over the world. At previous conferences, I have reported back to you:
how in 1993 we were alongside President Yeltsin and reformers in Moscow as
tanks rolled to oust the old-guard communists;
how in 1996 I was the first Western politician into Tibet to highlight the
tyranny of China's communist rulers after a three-year black-out;
how two years ago I was the first Western politician after the war to take
part in Belgrade's Republic Square demonstrations against Milosevic.
Now Britain is at war again. The attacks on New York and Washington were a
new form and scale of terrorism, amounting to an act of war.
The other day my colleagues and I travelled to Rome for a series of meetings
about the reaction to terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan.
We met Silvio Berlusconi and some f his ministers.
We discussed, at the Vatican, the values shared by all faiths, including
Islam, about the integrity of human beings and the universal belief in the
peaceful resolution of disputes.
At the headquarters of the World Food Programme we were told that even before
the current crisis, the combination of drought, a failing economy and war had
backed Afghanistan into the Middle Ages.
The average life expectancy for adults is around 40. And as many as a
quarter of children in some drought affected districts die before they reach
five years of age.
And there we met the King of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah - the first
Western politicians to meet him after the September 11 attacks.
The king is increasingly recognised as the only man who could again unite
Afghanistan's tribes and factions and oversee a return to stability and
For 40 years he skilfully led his country during the Hitler and Stalin years
and beyond: in 1964 he introduced free elections, a free media and brought
women into politics. But in 1973 he was ousted in a Soviet-inspired coup.
For 18 years he has worked patiently in exile.
The only role the king seeks today is to act as a unifying force for the
restoration of democracy in his country. I can attest today that he is 100
per cent willing and 100 per cent able to play such a role.
We urge our government to join the many in the international community, who
want Zahir Shah to convene a constitutional conference without delay.
This would give hope to his people and a sustained purpose for the actions
The international coalition is not simply to eradicate terrorism; it is also
to eradicate an evil regime and to restore democracy.
E McMillan-Scott tel 07785 263007